New standardized test rolls out across Central Texas with big changes

Published: May. 3, 2023 at 6:16 AM CDT
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(KWTX/Making The Grade) - After ten years, the standardized test used in Texas public schools got a refresh the state is calling STAAR Redesign.

The STAAR test, or the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness, was first introduced to public school students in the spring semester of 2012. It was consistently a 100% multiple choice test, with the exception of a few writing sections for some grades.

Now with the STAAR redesign students are taking right now, there are three big takeaways to be aware of.


The first takeaway is the introduction of more writing on the test.

Instead of being all multiple choice, the test will now include open ended questions that ask students to write, chart or graph an answer.

“Students are going to be able to show their work of how they got to the answer and there is now the possibility of multiple points happening,” Holly Moore, the Director of Accountability at Belton ISD, says.

It’s a brand new process that KWTX traveled to Austin to talk to the Texas Education Agency about. They tell us teachers played a big role in helping determine those question types.

“Some of our folks, math teachers in particular were super excited to see a situation where a students could actually plot a point on a graph and go through that exercise rather than having to think about the multiple choice components,” Lily Laux, the Deputy Commissioner of School Programs at the Texas Education Agency explained.

Central Texas districts say they’re happy to encouraging this change.

“I think the writing across the curriculum, evidence based approach is good for any student,” says Eric Pustejovsky, the Superintendent of Abbott ISD.

“We want our kids to be good writers. When you think about what it takes to be successful in life, writing is a key,” says Joe Kucera, the Superintendent at Lorena ISD.

Districts like Abbott ISD say their teachers are implementing writing across the board, even in elective classes like art or music.

Online Test

In most classrooms you will notice that writing is happening on a computer.

Unlike the old STAAR, this test is online.

“If you teach kids how to craft good ideas then the online part becomes almost its own lesson so really its two levels of learning for our kids which does make me nervous,” Denise Bell, the Director of Accountability at Waco ISD, says.

During the pandemic, the state made sure students had devices across the state. Since then, schools have slowly been moving to online testing knowing this change was coming.

“We had about 80% of our districts actually test online last spring,” Laux explains for the entire state.

Region 12 tells us most schools in Central Texas voluntarily took the test online last year too, including Waco ISD.

“It was the last year that paper testing was being done but we went ahead and said we’re going to do the test online to get the kids comfortable,” Bell added.

Still, they say it has been a big adjustment.

“You can’t just assume that because they’re a tech generation that they know how to take a test online,” Bell says.

Even with last year’s practice, they say testing online is different from what students today have grown up doing.

When asking Lorena ISD about the difference between shading in the bubble and pressing the enter button they say there are multiple reasons.

“Lets say you’re a math student. You’re still going to have students working [on the side] and they have to transfer that from [the side] to [the computer]. Lots of opportunity for human error. Lots of opportunity for human error,” Kucera says.

Perks to the new STAAR, however, include no time limits during the test, so students have time to double check their work.

Delayed Results

The final takeaway, which only applies to this year, is a delay in results.

Later in May the TEA will release preliminary scores.

“It’ll say either you passed, you didn’t pass and in the middle the TEA has called it the zone of uncertainty,” Bell explains.

Because it’s a new test, the final results won’t immediately be available. Specifics of how a child scored will be released in August.

“That can be frustrating, and you’re wondering is my kid on grade level? Are they not? How did they do? Is it better than last year?,” Bell explains as a parent herself.

But the TEA wants parents to know that delay is only for the 2023 testing year because the test is new.

“We have extra steps just to make sure that everything is accurate and we’ve analyzed all the data appropriately,” Laux explains.

In the future they say results will be back sooner than ever.

But once those results are out, both the state and area districts want parents to keep a few things in mind.

“I would anticipate all our test scores are going to see a little bit of a trend down just because its new,” Kucera says.

They don’t want parents to assume a change in score is a change in performance.

“I think if I were to give advice to parents it would be start fresh with what they’re thinking about their child’s performance in August and say OK this is this score on these tests. If it drops it could just be the test itself, you have to give your child another year,” Bell says.

The state is reminding the public that the high stakes component of the test has been removed and a students score won’t impact their ability to get to the next grade.

“We never want anyone to think that this test is an end all be all we think it’s a really important data point but its certainly not a measure of a child,” says Laux.

Schools will be held accountable for how students perform on the test this year, despite the changes.